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Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Hands On – Better than eyes can see

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Two months of collective restraint from the world’s most powerful smartphone companies have led up to this day in Barcelona. If this were Hollywood, today would be the Oscars, maybe even more exciting. Today, tightly guarded secrets finally see the light of day, leaks that couldn’t wait to be revealed are confirmed, and expectations that have kept the tech industry at a standstill are either quenched or met with utter disappointment.

In a span of just two years, Korean smartphone giant Samsung has been on the receiving end of both criticism and praise. Its 2014 smartphone the Galaxy S5, with its plasticky build and faux leather stylings was a big miss while its 2015 attempt the glass and metal Galaxy S6 was for the most part, everything its demanding user base clamoured for.

Today as they unveil their latest Pièce De Résistance or as the Spanish say the Plato Fuerte, Samsung hopes for a repeat of last year’s performance. 

I’ve seen and held the new Galaxy S7 and its curvier big brother the Galaxy S7 Edge – both are great phones, not blow your mind phones, but phones that deliver a certain level of contentment and satisfaction.

Call it managing expectations. For sure, a smartphone on the bleeding edge is what we tech journalists seek out. But at its core, if you strip away the pomp and hyperbole of a smartphone launch, see beyond the marketing speak, and allow enough time for the hype to die down, you’ll find that what everybody really wants is a smartphone they can be content with.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is one of those phones.

COMEBACK

Two key themes mark the design of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge (from hereon out collectively referred to as the S7 unless otherwise stated) – giving back what was surreptitiously taken away, and improving on what has already been done right.

Like the S5 of two years past, the S7 has an IP68 rating that guarantees survival under fresh or pool water up to depths of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. The only orifices on the phone are a micro USB charging port and headphone jack, both remain exposed but protected thanks to a new cap-less design.

The hybrid SIM tray on the S7 and S7 Edge takes two nano SIM cards or one SIM and on microSD card.

The hybrid SIM tray on the S7 and S7 Edge takes two nano SIM cards or one SIM and on microSD card.

The only removable part is its SIM card tray, lined with rubber stoppers to keep water out. The hybrid tray has two slots, one for a nano SIM, and the other for a micro SD (or a second nano SIM) card of up to 200GB in case the phone’s internal storage is not enough (32GB or 64GB depending on your region). The latter should appease critics who decried the absence of the expandable memory on the S6, and gives Samsung a leg up on Apple whose never made external cards an option on the iPhone. 

One feature not making a comeback is user replaceable batteries. Instead Samsung is giving the S7 and S7 Edge batteries with larger capacities. Up to 3000 mAh on the S7 and 3600 mAh on the S7 Edge. Both phones also support fast wired and wireless charging and take 95 minutes and 115 minutes (wired) and 130 and 150 minutes (wireless) respectively to charge from 0 to 100%.

DESIGN

If you’ve seen the S6 then the S7 won’t look dramatically different. The S7 is still mostly made up of glass and metal but now has slightly more rounded corners, a slightly more squarish home button, and a display that’s even more flushed against its sides.

samsung-galaxy-s7-curves

Both the S7 and S7 Edge are curvier than last years models thanks to new 3D glass.

The biggest design change can be seen and felt once you turn the phone around. The back of the of S7 now curves outward on both ends made from what Samsung calls 3D glass. It’s a simple but practical design change that’s made the phone less boxy, more ergonomic, and one that feels thinner than it actually is.

CAMERA

Samsung also improved the highly regarded camera of the S6.

While its shaved down the unsightly camera bump, everything else is bigger and better, including a faster f/1.7 lens and larger 1.4um pixel size.

samsung-galaxy-s7-camera

On paper the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have one of the best cameras seen on a smartphone ever.

The company is touting a new feature called dual pixel technology, something seen on high end professional cameras from Canon but never on a smartphone. The promise is even better low light performance and even faster focus speeds, up to 4x faster than its predecessor in low light.

Samsung is also making a bold move this year, cutting down on megapixels from 16 on the S6 to only 12 on the S7. In lieu of more megapixels you get larger pixels, a tradeoff that theoretically should deliver better looking photos across lighting conditions.

Double pressing on the home button still launches the camera app, and launch time is as fast as ever. From within the camera app Samsung has added a new Motion Panorama mode and made improvements to its Hyperlapse feature bringing down file sizes significantly so that it can be shared easily on the web.

Similar to what Apple did with the iPhone 6S, the S7’s selfie camera gets fill flash, not an actual front facing flash, but a sudden burst of light from your smartphone display.

POWER

Depending on where you are in the world the S7 will be powered by different processors, either an octa-core processor from Samsung (Exynos 8890) or a quad-core processor from Snapdragon (Snapdragon 820), both are promised to be up to 58% faster than last year’s models.

Memory-wise, 4GB of RAM is standard across the board.

Gamers will enjoy a new feature called Game Tools that allow you to take screenshots, record game play, turn off notifications while in game, and the ability switch to a power saving mode that reduces performance but saves on battery life. The phone also supports Vulcan API so game developers can tap into even more power saving and performance driving features in tandem with the phone.

S7 EDGE

Last year Samsung introduced two innovative new smartphones with curved screens, the 5.1-inch S6 Edge and 5.7 inch S7 Edge Plus. Both models have been consolidated into one product this year the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge. The change might sound confusing at first but it is a smart move that clearly defines Samsung’s top-of-the-line smartphone offerings which in 2016 are the Galaxy S7 (5.1 inches) Galaxy S7 Edge (5.5 inches) and Galaxy Note 5 (5.7 inches with a bundled stylus), none of which compete with each other in both feature set and screen size. 

Tasks Edge on the Galaxy S7 Edge allows users to set shortcuts to tasks within certain asks, soon even 3rd party ones

Tasks Edge on the Galaxy S7 Edge allows users to set shortcuts to tasks within certain asks, soon even 3rd party ones

Edge functionality on the S7 Edge has been expanded – the edge display is now two columns wide. The extra screen real estate means more space for 3rd party widgets. On top of “People Edge” (contact shortcuts) and “Apps Edge” (app shortcuts) Samsung is adding a third edge screen called “Task Edge” which allows you to create shortcuts to specific tasks within apps. For example you create a shortcut to launch the selfie camera, or compose a new SMS message. For now its Samsung apps only but the company is opening up Task Edge to third party developers so soon you should also be able to also create shortcuts for posting photos to Instagram and composing Tweets.

AVAILABILITY

It’s only been a few hours since the launch of the S7, not enough time to crown it the next best thing. In a week or so after this hype has died down, I should be able to assess how I truly feel about the device and determine whether or not it is a phone that delivers contentment. But by then the phone could already be in your hands.

In an effort to be the first flagship smartphone in stores this 2016, Samsung is pushing for an aggressive worldwide release. Both phones will be available in the United States on March 11th. The Philippine release is scheduled for March 19th, with gold and black 32GB variants of the S7 and S7 Edge retailing for Php 34990 and Php 39990 respectively.

CES 2018

Episode 001: Getting lost at the world’s largest tech show

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In this first epidose of GadgetMatch Podcast we talk about the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018) which just wrapped up in Las Vegas. Michael Josh and Isa share behind the scenes challenges of covering the world’s largest tech show. And the team talks about the most attention grabbing tech from the show including an entire range of Artificial Intelligence and Google Assistant gadgets, Vivo’s new phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Sony’s new robot dog, and Razer’s Project Linda.

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Apps

How to hide from Instragram’s new Activity Status feature

It’s on by default!

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Instagram silently rolled out a new feature of its app. If you don’t like your friends to know that you’re online (and also protect your privacy), you might want to take action. Why? Because it’s automatically turned on.

If you have the latest app, you probably noticed something new inside the Direct Messages section. This new feature dubbed “Activity Status” lets your Instagram buddies know if you’re online. If you happen to be scrolling through your timeline moments ago, the status will show that you’ve been available earlier.

This is switched on by default but the data is only shared with users that you follow and those you message privately. There’s no need to panic if you think a stalker will know that you’re online — unless you follow them, too.

How to turn it off?

You can easily switch it off inside the app. Just go to your profile page and tap the top-right icon for Options.

Next, scroll down until you see “Show Activity Status” and switch the toggle button beside.

That’s it! Now that it’s off on your end, your status will not show up to your buddies. Although, you won’t be able to see the status of other accounts as well.

Since the new feature was smoothly included in the recent updates from the Play Store or App Store, it’s not clear when Instagram introduced the function. Some might not have it yet, which could mean it’s still an experimental approach with a limited number of users.

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Automotive

The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

Exciting times ahead!

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We recently wrapped up CES 2018 (see our top picks) and even though the trade show originally revolved around consumer electronics, a big chunk of what was introduced was directed towards connected cities with a focus on making driving a lot smarter.

The idea of self-driving cars surely isn’t new and has been around for quite some time now. It’s basically the concept of what the future is like in addition to flying cars. At this year’s CES, brands who participated made us realize that this “future” isn’t too far away.

Here are some of the most promising cars and car technology that we’re excited to see in the near future.

Assistance

Multiple brands showed off their new toys left and right. There’s the announcement of Amazon’s Alexa coming to cars for voice assistance and content consumption. Toyota will be the next to adapt voice assistance in addition to BMW, Ford, and Hyundai. Meanwhile, Waze has also been integrated into select infotainment systems.

Nissan, on the other hand, is taking the user-machine a step further by introducing the brain-to-vehicle (B2V) technology. It basically uses a system that could read your brain patterns and signals to better prepare for what you’re about to do next while driving.

Platforms

In terms of services, Ford is slightly stepping out of the shadow of car-making and plans to be the new platform for autonomous vehicles. It has partnered with Lyft, Domino’s Pizza, and Postmates to create an operating system which small to large businesses can use for their unique services.

Speaking of unique services, Toyota unveiled its e-Palette concept vehicle which has all the potential to go big in the future of mobility. It’s envisioned as a self-driving vehicle running on Toyota’s tech and platform that other brands can use for food deliveries, as a moving boutique, or even a mobile hotel that you can rent.

As far as ride-sharing goes, expect it to join the bandwagon as smart cities are developed. During the trade show, car tech company Aptiv was present and was hand-in-hand with Lyft as they demonstrated their self-driving cars to the participants of CES. The public could just hail a ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center using the app and enjoy the view of the Strip to their destination.

Additionally, NVIDIA has also added Uber and Volkswagen to their growing roster of brands that will run on the company’s self-driving computer platform.

Cars

Apart from the new platforms, there were cars — quite a lot, actually. From concept to actual models on display, we got a peek at these vehicles that probably want to take on Tesla.

Derived from Bytes on Wheels, BYTON wants to blur the line between digital and automotive with their electric intelligent SUV concept. The new-gen smart device communicates with users and pedestrians via lights and patterns on its grille and recognizes the driver and passengers by face.

Kia was also present with its very own Niro electric crossover. This concept is basically an electric version of the Niro Hybrid but gets a new grille design. Like BYTON, it is now an interactive panel with a built-in Active Pedestrian Warning System, but what makes this something to look forward to is its range. It can go as far 383km (238 miles) before needing to charge again — beating what the Tesla Model 3 can offer.

Car designer Henrik Fisker gave another shot at making vehicles; this time in the form of the EMotion luxury sedan. The vehicle is a level 4 autonomous car and is equipped with the world’s first Butterfly Doors. Fisker also wants to set standards for other EVs so they made the vehicle last up to 644km (400 miles) on the road.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is continuing its push to go green and introduced the NEXO fuel cell electric vehicle. It has a more efficient engine, is a lot quieter, and maintenance is kept to a minimum. Although the best thing about it is that it emits nothing but water vapor. Features-wise, it has autonomous driving, self-parking, self-retrieval — the whole shebang.

In-vehicle Networking

Software updates are an important aspect of vehicles relying on digital systems. Tesla has somehow established its system already but for other car brands, updating hundreds, even thousands of vehicles across a country, is still not an easy task.

Hyundai and Cisco addressed this and aims to overhaul the process of in-vehicle networking. With the use of Ethernet connectivity and the Automotive Linux platform, they promise to be able to roll out updates remotely and it’s as simple as pushing a button.

 

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